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Ephemeral mimetics: memes, an X-ray of Covid-19

, Fátima García-López

Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted a crisis with consequences for public health, but also with economic, social and cultural implications that have affected all layers of society to a greater or lesser extent. Communication has been impacted by the immediacy and virality of messages and misinformation has galloped across social platforms. Against that backdrop, memes have emerged as a powerful means to channel citizen sentiment. A study of these digital objects is essential to understanding social network-based communication during the pandemic. The qualitative research reported here analyses the role of memes in communication on Covid-19, studies their development and defends their status as one of this generation’s cultural artefacts that, as such, merits preservation. Meme evolution is studied using Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief, which has been applied in a number of contexts involving psychological change. Studying memes in those terms both brings information on the evolution of citizens’ concerns to light and proves useful to sound out social media communication around the pandemic media. The challenges to be faced in meme preservation are defined, along with the ways in which heritage institutions should ensure the conservation of these cultural objects, which mirror early twenty-first century communication and world views and in this case provide specific insight into one of the most significant historic circumstances of recent decades.
Keywords: evolution / memes / pandemic / cultural / media / citizen / Covid / social / communication / proves useful

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